By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool heads to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United with an interesting backdrop.
The match is the first time Luis Suarez will meet Patrice Evra since Suarez’s suspension. The seemingly never-ending feud surrounding the two players may finally get closure this Saturday, but just like during Liverpool’s FA Cup win over United at Anfield, tensions will be high.
Not only with the Reds have an opportunity to cut Chelsea’s lead to one point for fourth place, if Everton can upend the Blues. However, a win is vital to Liverpool regardless of Chelsea’s result, as both Arsenal and Newcastle have tough fixtures on Saturday – with Sunderland and Tottenham, respectively.
Jose Enrique is the biggest injury worry for the Reds, and if he is not able to go, look for Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson to be taking care of the wings in defense. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has had a delightful quandary on the wings, as he possesses three serviceable defenders when healthy. Enrique will likely be missed, but both Johnson and Kelly have the ability to make supporters forget about the injury woes, at least for a little while.
Dalglish decided to use Suarez as a substitute against Spurs, and the decision arguably worked. Due to being out of the lineup for so long, Dalglish decided against throwing the Uruguayan into the mix until late in the second half. While Liverpool was unable to score, Suarez made a significant difference in attack, and if selected by Dalglish, he has the potential to give the United defense a nightmare.
Suarez could be joined up front by either Craig Bellamy or Andy Carroll, which may not be as easy to choose from, as of late. Bellamy has been the best attacking player in the squad this season, but Carroll has looked improved. While not scoring as many goals as supporters had hoped, Carroll has been more involved in play during the past few games. It seems the former Newcastle forward has a point to prove.
United has witnessed a real lack of strength in the back in recent weeks, as multiple injuries have plagued the squad. However, no injury has been as jeopardizing for the club’s success as the anemic play of its goalkeeper, David De Gea. The Spaniard recently received criticism from former Manchester legend Edwin van der Sar for his poor play. It remains to be seen if he will put forth the same poor effort against Liverpool this time around that he did during the FA Cup loss.
United will likely depend on Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck in attack, with both Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov waiting on the bench. The depth up front could be enough to compensate for the possible absences of Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley and Nani, who are all question marks. The most likely to return to the squad is Cleverley, who could certainly add some midfield depth off of the bench.
The Reds have one point against United in the league this year, after the clubs drew in Anfield earlier in the campaign. With a win on Saturday, Liverpool could avoid a loss from its bitter rivals, a feat not typically as common in recent years as most supporters would prefer.
If Liverpool wins Saturday, not only will it help out its quest for fourth, it will put a significant dent in United’s hopes. Alex Ferguson’s side trail Manchester City by two points, and the Citizens head to Birmingham on Sunday to take on Aston Villa.
Liverpool v Manchester United
When: Monday, February 11, 12:45 GMT / 7:45 EST
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester
Premier League Table: Liverpool 7th (39 points), Manchester United 2nd (55 points)
Last Premier League Match: Liverpool 0-0 Tottenham, Chelsea 3 – 3 Manchester United
Probable Liverpool Starting XI:
DEF: Kelly, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson
MID: Henderson, Gerrard, Adam, Downing
FW: Suarez, Bellamy
Subs from: Doni, Enrique, Coates, Carragher, Flanagan, Aurelio, Shelvey, Spearing, Kuyt, Carroll
Probable Manchester United Starting XI:
GK: De Gea
DEF: Evra, Ferdinand, Evans, Rafael
MID: Giggs, Carrick, Young, Valencia
FW: Rooney, Welbeck
Subs from: Amos, Jones, Pogba, Cleverley, Nani, Park, Scholes, Berbatov, Hernandez
Interact: What’s your final score prediction? What’s your predicted starting eleven? Comment below.